- This Week's Lucky Numbers
- Motown Politics
- Looking Ahead to 2006
- What's Happening in Washington
- Legislature Update
- Around the State
- Calling Michigan Kossacks!
Days until the Detroit Freedom Festival fireworks: 18.
Number of GM hourly workers in 1991: 207,300.
Expected number of GM hourly workers in 2009: 84,000.
Size of budget passed by State House: $39.6 billion.
Pages in that budget: 683.
Truckloads of Canadian trash arriving in Michigan: 415 per day.
Total contributions to the GOP by Dick and Betsy DeVos in 2004: $1.48 million.
Supreme Court justices appointed by Governor Jennifer Granholm: 0.
Mayor, Council, in Budget Showdown. As expected, City Council overrode Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's veto of the budget. What next? Some council members are trying to reach a compromise that involves less-drastic cuts to police and fire department budgets.
The mayor repeated his threat to cancel the annual Freedom Festival fireworks display, one of the area's most popular events, because budget cuts would leave too few law-enforcement officers to provide security. But many think the mayor is bluffing. And if he isn't, he's--pardon the pun--playing with fire. As The Detroit Free Press observed in an editorial, canceling the fireworks for security reasons will send the country the wrong message about Detroit, which hosts the All-Star Game July 12 and Super Bowl XL next February.
The budget battle will be resolved, one way or the other, and that resolution is almost certain to be ugly. The Metro Times notes that city workers face a Hobson's choice: Either municipal employees' unions agree to pay cuts or the city will cut 1,500 to 2,000 jobs. And if neither step is taken, state intervention is inevitable.
Debategate? There was more fallout from last week's mayoral debate on Mackinac Island. Detroit Free Press columnist Rochelle Riley reported that Bob Berg, a paid spokesman for Mayor Kilpatrick's re-election campaign, helped write the moderator's questions. While Berg's intervention had little effect on the debate, Riley argued that his actions raise a bigger question about "how things are done" in Detroit, where conflicts of interest and possible ethics violations are downplayed.
In Brief. While on Mackinac Island, Governor Granholm said she "supports," but does not "endorse," Mayor Kilpatrick, telling her audience "I support all incumbent mayors."...An opponent of the mayor owns the domain namewww.kwamekilpatrick.com, which features a "Martha Stewart Living" spoof. Ironically, Kilpatrick registered that domain name for his 2001 election campaign, but let the registration lapse.
Looking Ahead to 2006...and 2008
High-Stakes Poker. It's too early to predict the winners, but one thing is certain: next year's races for governor and senator will be the most expensive ever. Senator Debbie Stabenow expects to raise $15 million, and Republican challenger Rev. Keith Butler is talking about $12 million. Governor Granholm's campaign has reportedly raised "lots of money" and expects to raise "lots more." And then there's Dick DeVos, who belongs to one of the wealthiest families in the world.
Justice Weaver Changes Her Mind. Justice Elizabeth Weaver won't be leaving the Supreme Court in October after all. Earlier this year, Weaver announced she'd step down but never submitted a letter of resignation. Now she's delayed her departure to "a yet to be determined time"--most likely after next year's gubernatorial election.
Another Presidential Candidate Sighting. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) spoke at a Lincoln Day dinner held by the Macomb County GOP. McCain told his audience that he voted for the compromise on judicial filibusters in order to avoid an even worse problem--namely, the prospect of Democrats tying Senate business with unlimited debate over some of President Bush's nominees.
In Brief. Senator Nancy Cassis (R-Novi), who's running for governor, has her website up....In a fund-raising letter, Republican National Committeeman Chuck Yob said that because of term limits, the GOP is "at serious risk" of losing control of the Michigan Senate for the first time in more than 20 years.
What's Happening in Washington
House Panel Okays Canadian Trash Curbs. Michigan's congressional delegation got some help in their efforts to slow the movement of trash from Canada into state landfills. A subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved a measure allowing states to regulate international shipments of municipal solid waste. It also would require the federal government to implement an existing agreement with Canada on the trash.
Stabenow Co-Sponsors "Health Tech" Bill. Senators Debbie Stabenow and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) have co-sponsored a bill that would encourage the use new information technology in the nation's health care system. The new technology could lead to $300 billion in savings through reduced paperwork and better quality care.
In Brief. The Senate voted unanimously to confirm David McKeague and Richard Griffin as the newest judges of the Sixth Circuit. Senators Levin and Stabenow voted "aye."...Jack Lessenbery profiled congressman John Conyers (D-Detroit) in this week's Metro Times. Conyers, the founder of the Congressional Black Caucus, is serving his 21st term.
Big Budget Bill, Smaller Budget. By an 58-52 party-line vote, the House approved the state budget for fiscal 2006. This year, the House GOP leadership has adopted a different budget process: the entire state budget will be contained in a single bill. Supporters point out that 18 other states pass the budget as one bill, and argue that doing so would make it harder to increase spending. But opponents warn that a single-bill budget will make it easier to add pork-barrel projects and make stealth cuts to programs.
And there were cuts, especially to the state's Medicaid program. The House budget would drop 43,000 residents from the rolls and freeze enrollment in another Medicaid program that provides limited benefits to those who won't otherwise qualify. The cuts drew fire from Governor Granholm, and the Free Press weighed in with an editorial branding them both "cruel" and "unrealistic". But House Speaker Craig De Roche (R-Novi) and Appropriations Committee chair Scott Hummel (R-De Witt) defended the budget in a Free Press op-ed, saying that it held the line on spending and balanced the budget without tax shifts.
Welfare also was on the House GOP's hit list. Speaker Craig DeRoche (R-Novi) wants Michigan to ask the federal government for permission to take some 14,000 long-term welfare recipients off the rolls, a move opposed by the Department of Human Services.
The budget bill now moves to the Senate, and Governor Granholm has warned that the House version won't get past her desk. The likely outcome? A final budget somewhere between the House version and what the governor wants.
Senate Clears Scaled-Down Version of Governor's Bond Proposal. The Senate passed a resolution that would put a $1 billion bond issue on the November ballot. The measure passed by the GOP-controlled Senate differs from Governor Granholm's "Jobs for Michigan" proposal: it would provide for only half the amount the governor asked for, earmark at least half the money for life sciences, and create a board charged with spending the money.
Some fiscal conservatives are unhappy with the measure. One of them is Burton Folsom, a professor of history at Hillsdale College, who sees a parallel between the current bond proposal and one from many years ago. In the late 1830s, Governor Stephens T. Mason persuaded the legislature to issue bonds to build railroads and canals. Folsom said that this early example of "industrial policy" was a financial disaster for the state.
It's the Law: Permit Requirement for Great Lakes Ships. Governor Granholm signed into law a bill requiring oceangoing ships to obtain a state permit to enter Michigan ports. The law, which is aimed at keeping exotic plant and animal species out of the Great Lakes, takes effect in 2007.
Raise School Dropout Age to 18? Senator Liz Brater (D-Ann Arbor) has proposed raising the school dropout age from 16 to 18--which is the law in about a third of the states--and the Senate Education Committee is holding hearings on the proposal. Witnesses agree that raising the age is the easy part of solving Michigan's school dropout program; enforcing the law and, more importantly, making school worthwhile for older teens, is the hard part.
In Brief. Communities around the state are feeling the pinch of state aid cuts. The fiscal 2005 budget cut more than $400 million in revenue sharing money....The Senate approved a bill allowing the construction of pipelines and utility lines near highways without municipal consent....A lesbian couple has filed suit challenging the constitutionality of Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage, arguing that it violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution....Representative Jack Brandenberg (R-Harrison Township) doesn't have much use for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. He and fellow House Republicans have hit the agency with a hefty funding cut.
Around the State
Ex-Governor Milliken Speaks Out. William Milliken, a Republican who served as governor from 1969 until 1983, accused politicians of putting partisanship and re-election ahead of problem-solving. He cited several examples, including tax cuts that starve state services, harsh criminal sentences for non-violent offenders, and term limits that have proved counterproductive.
In Brief. The Gull Lake public schools still face a lawsuit over the teaching of intelligent design. The Ann Arbor-based Thomas More Law Center is representing two Gull Lake teachers who tried to incorporate intelligent design into their science classes....Livonia voters will decide whether the city should withdraw from the SMART regional bus system and instead establish a city bus service....An editorial in the Detroit News criticized state lawmakers' proposed funding formula for state universities, in part because it might end up producing more graduates with engineering, technical, and health-care degrees than the economy needs....The Secretary of State dismissed charges that an anti-affirmative action group violated campaign finance laws....Attorney General Mike Cox donated $300,000 in Sprint calling cards to Michiganders in the armed services and their families. Sprint paid the money to settle a case of alleged "slamming."...Stephen J. Murphy III has been named U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan. The troubled office has been without a permanent head for nine months.
Calling Michigan Kossacks!
Our Michigan Kossack community is growing and, by my unofficial count, stands at 67. If you're out there and reading this, I'd like you to put on your thinking cap and help draw up a "to-do" list for the 2006 election cycle.
On the top of my list is a Michigan-based blog that combines the talents of multiple Kossacks, perhaps in the form of weekly columns on issues of interest (e.g., women's rights, the environment) but open to contributions by others. This blog will be in addition to contributors' own blogs, and cross-posting is strongly encouraged. Your thoughts?
Here are a few other ideas that I've come up, or that have been suggested to me:
- Follow the money. For example, where does the De Vos family money go, and who is funding local GOP officeholders?
- Unearth the right-wing infrastructure. I recently stumbled onto an organization called the Student Statesmanship Institute, a junior-varsity Leadership Institute with a biblical orientation. I'll feature SSI in a future diary.
- Identify and tracking state legislation. Republicans have thrown some awfully bad bills into the legislative hopper. Many go undetected by the local media, and others are widely misunderstood.
- Do opposition research on Republican officeholders. Who's supporting them and what is their voting record? For instance, my congressman, Thaddeus McCotter (MI-11), has a hard-right voting record yet the local media still think he's a mainstream Republican.